Original Article: https://student.societyforscience.org/article/common-plant-could-help-fight-zika-virus
In today’s episode of high school students showing up experienced researchers, a teenager in the Philippines discovered that a chemical in a plant that grows in his backyard, Codiaeum variegatum, is toxic to the larvae of Aedes Aegypti, the mosquito that is the vector for Zika virus, Dengue virus and Chikungunya. He decided to test 3 plants in his area, distilled the main extract of the plant, and tested its effects by introducing it to water containing mosquito eggs and larvae. He found that all 3 plant extracts were able to interfere with healthy growth, but that Codiaeum variegatum in particular was incredibly toxic. He presented this finding at the Intel Science fair this year.
Although he started with an initial focus on Dengue, his research is now generating a lot of interest because of its applicability to Zika. I think it will be really interesting to see if we can apply this model to science overall in order to generate cool new discoveries. In this case, getting plant extracts and running quick toxicity tests is clearly something that people without much advanced scientific training can do. If we are able to crowdsource experiments like these, we would be able to get so much more data on potential new chemical compounds, that could be funneled into more advanced research based on initial data. Also, it’s a free and abundant source of labor, so that seems like a great idea!